Meet Yousra Elbagir

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Sudanese-born, British-educated journalist currently working in Khartoum, Sudan as a writer for the Guardian, CNN Africa, Reuters Africa and Content manager for Elephant Media.
Yousra’s favorite books

Yousra’s favorite books

T-Shirt, & Other Stories ; Top, Misguided ; Jeans, ASOS

on her morning routine

I usually spend quite a bit of time checking my phone with one-eye open for the first 30 minutes I'm awake. Once I drag myself out of bed, I brush my teeth, shower and wash my face with an all-natural Tumeric soap from India. It's amazing - exfoliates and purifies - I also use it as a body wash. Then I use the Pixi Glow tonic and moisturise with Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentré. I usually put on a thin layer of Clinique Moisture surge tinted moisturiser with SPF 15 if I'm heading out for the day. I have a lot of allergies and really sensitive skin so I avoid any other skin make-up or sun protection.

on her family and childhood

My dad is a Sudanese journalist and politician, and my mum is his business partner and publisher. His newspaper - Al-Khartoum - was printing in Khartoum, London, Cairo, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Before I was born, my dad was exiled for being government opposition. He hopped over to the University of Exeter in the UK to get his PHD in political science and that's where I grew up until I was 8. We then moved to Khartoum and I studied high school there for the next 7 years. When I first arrived it was really difficult assimilating, I remember getting teased quite a bit. But by the time I left for London at 16, I had a strong group of close friends and became fluent in Arabic. I did my A Levels (SAT equivalent) in London and read Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews, graduating last summer. I made the big decision to move back home for field experience as a journalist, where I now work at our family production company Elephant Media and have been there ever since.

Top, Zara

“Asmarani is the chap-book of an incredible Sudanese-American poet, and very good friend of mine, Safia Elhillo (@safiamafia). This girl plucks poetry from the heavens. She’s got a book coming out called The January Children and I feel like my autographed copy of Asmarani is going to be priceless very, very soon.”
— on her favorite poetry

T-Shirt, & Other Stories ; Top, Misguided ; Jeans, ASOS ; Shoes, Nike

on her love for Sudanese culture

I fell so deeply in love with Sudanese culture as soon as I moved back. Studying anthropology really made me look at things in a different light - things I'd taken for granted before. The music, the food, the perfumed oils and heavenly sandalwood incense (bakhoor). At Elephant Media, we focus a lot on uncovering Sudanese culture. Through those projects, I've been introduced to an incredible community of contemporary artists - people who are constantly producing beautiful work regardless of socio-economic circumstance and lack of exposure. My room in Sudan is full of Sudanese art. I had to physically stop myself from bringing it all with me to NYC for the month.

on her writing

Someone asked me once if we burn newspapers as incense at home. It was one of the most spot-on metaphors I've ever heard. My family is very media-oriented and our newspaper was around long before I even came into existence. My sister Safia is the only one who managed to escape the madness - she's a doctor. My eldest sister Nima is a senior foreign correspondent for CNN and my brother used to run our printing press and has now evolved the family trade into new media by founding Elephant Media. When I first moved to Sudan at the end of last summer, I started writing for the CNN Africa website. My first article was on Nuba wrestling, a thousand year-old tradition hailing from the south of Sudan that had meant displaced and persecuted Nuba were competing in the Khartoum and were being trained by the Japanese embassy for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. I'll never forget how I felt when it was published, I was just elated. I had been published by CNN and Reuters News before but never on Sudan or anything Sudanese. That really set the tone for everything I've gone on to write the last year - a blend of culture, human interest and news. I started writing for the Guardian in February, mostly on stories we work on at Elephant Media. I was recently able to combine my two worlds more seamlessly with Elephant Media becoming a partner of the Guardian Africa Network.

Shirt, H&M

Shirt, H&M

“As a black, Muslim, African, Arab woman, Ive always known that I relate to some of the most underrepresented groups in the world. At home in Sudan, I’m the majority and growing up in the UK, I was a minority. Shifting between those binaries has really shaped who I am. I’ve always looked at it as a strength, access to a unique perspective that I can try and share with the world through connecting with people and telling their stories in a compelling way. I still have a long way to go but the aim of my entire body of work is to push the developing world narrative to the forefront of the media.”
— on how her culture shaped her

Top, H&M ; Pants, Misguided

T-Shirt, & Other Stories ; Top, Misguided

on her sensitive skin

When I found out I was allergic to fragrances, I started using some of my mums perfumed oils because it's applied without a spray getting it everywhere. Now my mum mixes a special little bottle for me. I've had people stop me in the street and ask me where they can buy it. She's not selling! I think it's really important to monitor how your skin reacts to the elements and different products. My allergies have meant that I pay really close attention to that. There was a period of two years where my skin was breaking out constantly and what I thought was acne turned out to be a rash from my long list of unknown food intolerances. Listen to your skin, it'll always tell you when something shouldn't be in your system.

I also generously lather on moisturizer before I sleep - it's the best time for your skin to rehydrate. Additionally, I would recommend: Clinique Moisture Surge, Embryolisse, Pixi Glow Tonic Toner, and Mixed Chicks conditioner.

Yousra's favorite beauty products

All the rings are hand-crafted Sudanese silver - two from an incredible silver-smith called Bul Bul based in the capital's twin city, Omdurman. He comes from a long line of silversmiths that goes back a thousand years. The heavy silver necklace is from Yemen, my sister Nima got it while traveling from work and I inherited it/semi-stole it. The long silver necklace with the blue and red is from Zara UK. Was so surprised to see something like that on the high street - looks very East African. The gold choker is from a Kenyan designer who displays in the Nairobi Norfolk Fairmont hotel gift shop.

Top, Zara    ;    pants, Missguided    ; Shoes, & OTHER STORIES ; Sunglasses, Sincerely Tommy ; Bag, Zara

Top, Zara ; pants, Missguided ; Shoes, & OTHER STORIES ; Sunglasses, Sincerely Tommy ; Bag, Zara

Yousra’s favorite food in nyc

I tried Senegalese food recently at Africa Kine restaurant in Harlem. It was absolutely incredible - best grilled fish I've ever had. 

Boulevard on Malcolm X boulevard has the most amazing soul food. 

Champs vegan diner in Brooklyn kept me going back there every weekend! Was so great to indulge in some mac & cheese and not worry about my face swelling up. 

yousra’s favorite shops in nyc

As for shops: I love Sincerely Tommy in Brooklyn - fell in love with their Perspex sunglasses.

I'm also obsessed with this Senegalese shop in Harlem called Kilimanjaro fashions. It's on 116th and Malcolm X boulevard and just full to the brim with these colourful African prints. They have an in-store tailor that can alter any purchases and make custom designs using their printed fabric. 

yousra’s favorite books

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

What is the What by Dave Eggars

Asmarani by Safia Elhillo